The Art of Papier Mache, 1899

Originally appeared in an 1899 issue of New York Times:

“Yes,” said the little man up town who makes theatrical “Props” and incidentally any number of “props” for other things, “there is nothing like papier maché. It is being used more and more all the time now and there are more and more things for which it can be used. It is the strongest material known for its weight. You see, for anything to use in the theatre you have to have something that is strong and that will stand traveling and being thrown around, and if it is big—columns in the scenery, for instance—it must not only be strong but light, so that it can be moved easily. It must be light anyway. Imagine a band of Amazons traveling around the country with suits of metal armor, or wearing it, either, for that matter. The Amazons would strike, the railroad companies would strike, and the theatrical company would go out of business. There is nothing you can’t make of papier maché, from an elephant to a vase. The greatest trouble is to get the models. Sometimes you send out and get small ones of plaster or marble, and at other times you will have to work from sketches and photographs and use your own ingenuity, working on a geometrical scale for enlargement. Continue reading The Art of Papier Mache, 1899

2019 SPAM Grant Winners

The Society of Properties Artisan Managers is proud to announce the winners of their fifth annual Jen Trieloff and Edie Whitsett Internship Grants. Congratulations to Emily Davis and Kenly Cox. These grants are awarded to individuals wanting financial assistance with transportation, housing or other necessities during an internship in theatrical properties. You can find out more about these grants and other resources at the S*P*A*M website. You can also “like” their Facebook page to stay up to date with news and announcements.

2019 Jen Trieloff Grant recipient: Emily Davis

Emily Davis
Emily Davis

Emily Davis graduated from Florida State University in May of 2019 with her BA degree in Theatre. Her time spent volunteering in the scenic and props shops were the most formative of her time at FSU and inspired her to pursue a career path in Props. She is currently working as a Properties Artisan Apprentice at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA. Emily is incredibly honored to be chosen to receive this grant and would like to thank the S*P*A*M community for this wonderful opportunity.

You can see examples of Emily’s work at: www.emcdavis.com or @em.c.davis on Instagram.

2019 Edie Whitsett Grant recipient: Kenly Cox

Kenly Cox
Kenly Cox

Kenly Cox is a 2019 graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, obtaining her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art, specializing in metal and ceramic sculpture. Shegraduated with a minor in Drama Arts in Theatrical Production, discovering her passion for Stage Properties as a work study student at PlayMakers Repertory Company at UNC. There she gained valuable skills and everlasting friendships. Kenly discovered that her talents as a fine artist could be applied to the theatrical world and serve as a plausible career path. She is now working for the summer as a Stage Properties Apprentice at Wolf Trap Opera in Vienna, Virginia, expanding her knowledge and skills as a Prop Artisan. After her work is done with Wolf Trap, Kenly will be returning to PlayMakers Repertory Company as a part time Properties Artisan for the 2019-2020 season.

You can see Kenly’s work on her website: https://kenlymcox.wixsite.com/kenlycoxart/theatre

Props in the News Today

The Society of Properties Artisan Managers Offers Some Advice – Here are 32 pieces of advice from veteran prop masters to burgeoning prop artisans.

For a Hollywood propmaster, it’s the little things that make ‘Big Little Lies’ a success – Jane Gulick’s job is to make sure the Monterey area in Big Little Lies looks like the real town. She uses a ton of local products to help flesh out the world.

An American Theatre Wing Working in Theatre Video: Specialty Props – Mary Creede, Zoë Morsette, and John Jerard create some of the most unusual and iconic props on Broadway. Check out this video to see the shops where they are tasked with creating all the things that don’t currently exist.

Broadway Design On Display At McNay Museum – If you are in San Antonio, TX, before June 30th, check out this exhibition of theatrical and film designs. The show features models and renderings from some of the 20th and 21st centurys’ most prolific designers.

New Prop Links for the Summer

The Society of Properties Artisan Managers Offers Some Advice – Recently, S*P*A*M solicited advice from its members, which include hundreds of prop masters in most of the major US theaters. They narrowed the list down to 32 nuggets of advice for every new prop artisan.

Interview — DISCOVERY Prop Master Mario Moreira on the Red Angel Suit, Section 31 Phasers, and More – The newest iteration of Star Trek continues the tradition of having cool props. Take a peek into the workshop of Mario Moreira to see how all the custom sci-fi gadgets get made.

‘The Big Bang Theory’ Prop Master and Set Decorator Look Back on the Show’s 12 Seasons – Whether you enjoyed the show or not, a twelve-year run means lots of props and tons of detail in the set dressing. Find out about some of the behind-the-scenes secrets from prop master Scott London and set decorator Ann Shea.

How Gary Does the DicksTaylor Mac’s highly irreverent  Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, now running on Broadway, needed dicks. A lot of them. The show features dozens of mannequins playing the part of dead Romans, and at various points, they come to life and dance with their members. Learn how specialty prop designer Craig Grigg brought them to life with animatronics.

Avengers: Endgame Film Décor – Check out these photos and descriptions of the miriad sets from this decade’s biggest film. Set Decorator Leslie Pope discusses what went into creating some of the major locations in this film, many of which had to match or reference previous locations in this sprawling 22 film franchise.

Props in Brome’s Antipodes, 1638.

Richard Brome was an English playwright during the Caroline era, making him about a generation removed from Shakespeare. One of his plays, The Antipodes, first performed in 1638, features a sort of play-within-a-play that gives us a glimpse into a properties storeroom of the time. The character of Peregrine is fooled into believing he has traveled to the Antipodes, a mythical “anti-London” on the opposite side of the world. The inhabitants are simply theatrical actors, though, hired by a doctor in an attempt to treat Peregrine. Peregrine eventually finds his way “backstage” into the props storage area, known in this time as the “tiring house”, and begins destroying the props, believing they are real items in the Antipodes. Another character, Byplay, recounts this event. It gives us a glimpse into what manner of props and scenery may have been stored at an English theater during this time period:

Byplay: He has got into our tiring house amongst us,
And ta’en a strict survey of all our properties,
Our statues and our images of gods, our planets and our constellations,
Our giants, monsters, furies, beasts, and bugbears,
Our helmets, shields and vizors, hairs and beards,
Our pasteboard marchpanes and our wooden pies.

later…

When on the sudden, with thrice knightly force,
And thrice, thrice puissant arm he snatcheth down
The sword and shield that I played Bevis with,
Rusheth amongst the foresaid properties,
Kills monster after monster, takes the puppets
Prisoners, knocks down the Cyclops, tumbles all
Our jiggumbobs and trinkets to the wall.
Spying at last the crown and royal robes
I’th’ upper wardrobe, next to which by chance
The devil’s vizors hung and their flame-painted
Skin coats, those he removed with greater fury,
And (having cut the infernal ugly faces,
All into mammocks) with a reverend hand,
He takes the imperial diadem and crowns
Himself King of the Antipodes, and believes
He has justly gained the kingdom by his conquest.

The Antipodes by Richard Brome, Act 3 Scene 1. 1638. https://www.dhi.ac.uk/brome/viewTranscripts.jsp?play=AN&act=1&type=BOTH

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies